Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana on May 1, 2004. Photo by Rafael Perez/Reuters
Here’s a question for Jewish Journal readers and fellow Jewish Journal columnists who identify themselves as progressives:
Regarding Fidel Castro’s recent death, do you agree with the reactions of American President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Irish President Michael Higgins, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former American President Jimmy Carter, and virtually every other world and national leader on the left? Or do you agree with President-elect Donald Trump?
Here are the essential parts of their statements:
Obama: “We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. … History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
Trudeau: “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President. Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante.’ … We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”
Juncker: “He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history … the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.”
Corbyn: “Fidel Castro’s death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism. From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba’s record of international solidarity abroad, Castro’s achievements were many. … He will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.”
Higgins: “I have learned with great sadness of the death of Fidel Castro … Following the revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro brought significant political and social change to his country. … Cuba achieved 100 percent literacy many years ago and built up a health system that is one of the most admired in the world. With economic growth rates similar to many other Latin American countries, inequality and poverty are much less pronounced in Cuba than in surrounding nations. … Fidel Castro will be remembered as a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people, but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet.”
Carter, on behalf of himself and his wife, Rosalynn: “We remember fondly our visits with [Castro] in Cuba and his love of his country.”
Trump: “Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”
To aid you in answering, here is a brief summary of Castro’s rule from the Wall Street Journal editorial:
“The Cuba that Castro inherited … ranked third in Latin America in doctors and dentists and daily calorie consumption per capita. Its infant-mortality rate was the lowest in the region and the 13th lowest in the world. Cubans were among the most literate Latins and had a vibrant civic life with private professional, commercial, religious and charitable organizations. … Castro destroyed all that. … In the past half century Cuba’s export growth has been less than Haiti’s, and now even doctors are scarce because so many are sent abroad to earn foreign currency. Hospitals lack sheets and aspirin. The average monthly income is $20 and government food rations are inadequate.”
And that’s only a summary of Castro’s economic and social devastation, not the human devastation — the tens of thousands of democrats killed, the tens of thousands of democrats imprisoned and tortured, and the suppression of all liberty in Cuba for over half a century.
So, then, who is right on one of the most important moral assessments of our age — virtually the entire world’s left, or Donald Trump?
Or doesn’t it matter?
Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).